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Irving Penn's Extraordinary Portrait Photographs

Updated on April 21, 2016

Irving Penn's Wife and Model Lisa Fonssagrives

Irving Penn Portraitist Extraordinaire

At age 90 Irving Penn, the dean of American portrait photographers, continues his work in New York City. As did Richard Avedon, Penn began at Vogue magazine in the 1940s. Penn's portraits span time and subjects unmatched by any other photographer. [Irving Penn died October 7, 2009 at age 92.]

An exhibition of his work entitled "Close Encounters: Irving Penn Portraits of Artists and Writers" organized by Peter Barberie at the Morgan Library in New York City. The exhibit displays portraits of Picasso, Simone de Beauvoir, Woody Allen, Ingmar Bergman, H.L. Mencken, Marcel Duchamps, Jean Cocteau, S.J. Perelman, Carson McCullers, Arthur Miller, Orson Welles, Jasper Johns and other artists and writers. A NYTimes slide show sampling of Penn's "Close Encounters" exhibit is linked below along with Karen Rosenberg's article in the Times.

Marcel Duchamp

Richard Avedon portrait by Irving Penn

Pablo Picasso

Marlene Dietrich

Lisa Cant

Blaise Cendrars and His wife, Raymone Duchateau

Jesseye Norman

Sophia Loren

Salvador Dali

Kate Moss

S.J. Perelman

Cafe in Lima

Truman Capote
Truman Capote
James VanDerZee, Harlem Photographer
James VanDerZee, Harlem Photographer | Source
Diane Von Furstenberg
Diane Von Furstenberg
Jean Cocteau
Jean Cocteau
Francis Bacon
Francis Bacon
Girl Drinking, Irving Penn
Girl Drinking, Irving Penn
Jasper Johns, N.Y. 2006
Jasper Johns, N.Y. 2006


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    • profile image


      4 years ago

      Your pictures are truly aminazg! You have such an unbelievable talent. do you by nay chance sell your art or take requests, i would love to have one of your pictures on my wall!xo, Spencer

    • meltawayyourfat profile image


      5 years ago from New York

      Amazing photos! love it!

    • Ralph Deeds profile imageAUTHOR

      Ralph Deeds 

      5 years ago from Birmingham, Michigan

      Many thanks. I'll adjust the caption.

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      Raymone Duchateau is Blaise Cendrars' wife.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Ich könnte noch Stunden hier damit verbringen die Arbeiten der großen Photographen zu betrachten !

    • Ralph Deeds profile imageAUTHOR

      Ralph Deeds 

      8 years ago from Birmingham, Michigan

      Thanks. I was guessing. The person in the photo wasn't identified.

    • profile image

      Phil Anderson 

      8 years ago

      I don't know how you think that could be Idi Amin.

      But, yes, it is probably Papa Doc the notorious Hatiian dictator.

    • Ralph Deeds profile imageAUTHOR

      Ralph Deeds 

      9 years ago from Birmingham, Michigan

      For more than 30 years Patricia McCabe was the administrative assistant to the photographer Irving Penn. And for more than 30 years, whenever he gave her a present — for Christmas or her birthday or to commemorate a special occasion like the completion of a book project — Penn would choose a print he knew she liked and inscribe it to her on the back, often drawing a heart around or beneath his name.

      Ms. McCabe died in 2004, and Penn in October. By the time of her death, she had amassed 67 photographs, which Christie’s will sell in a single-artist sale in New York on April 14. All told, they are expected to fetch $1.3 million to $2 million.

      “The collection is a chronology of Penn’s career, beginning with a still life in 1939 and going all the way to a self-portrait he made in 1986,” said Joshua Holdeman, international director of Christie’s photography department. “There are some highly iconic images, like the ‘Cuzco Children,’ and others, like ‘Deli Package,’ that I had never seen before.” NYTimes 1-29-10

    • HubCrafter profile image


      9 years ago from Arizona

      It's a wonderful collection; marvelous, the black and whites; the artists, authors, children, stars and mavens.

      I love the portraits, how they delve into character with a gesture, like Jean Cocteau. He looks so guarded, sort of pretentious, so dressed. The angles are startling. The coat on the shoulder. The knee made vertical. Amazing, really wonderful, photograph.

      Thanks for so many wonderful pictures.


    • Ralph Deeds profile imageAUTHOR

      Ralph Deeds 

      9 years ago from Birmingham, Michigan

      De nada, hermano.

    • barranca profile image


      9 years ago

      Enjoyed this very much. Muchas Gracias.

    • Ralph Deeds profile imageAUTHOR

      Ralph Deeds 

      9 years ago from Birmingham, Michigan

      Irving Penn dead at 92.

    • paulgiunta profile image


      9 years ago from Long Beach, CA

      I love the Picasso portrait

    • lafenty profile image


      10 years ago from California

      Great collection of photos. As a black and white photographer, they give me something to strive for. Really beautiful.

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      Mr. Deeds,

      You have a very fine collection of Penn photos. Congratulations! May your collection grow and you continue to share them here.

      Many thanks!

    • rogue nestling profile image

      rogue nestling 

      11 years ago

      Interesting pics. They seem to bare the soul of the subject and create mystery at the same time.

    • profile image


      11 years ago

      go look :p

    • profile image


      11 years ago

      roflmao, ralph. haha, I can't believe you image googled "cow-on-a-stick". I think my inanity is contagious. you just delighted me beyond measure.

      Ok, I'll steal (and credit) this other person's cow-on-a-stick and Hub this thing, but I'm holding you responsible as an accessory to the crime. :D

    • Ralph Deeds profile imageAUTHOR

      Ralph Deeds 

      11 years ago from Birmingham, Michigan

    • profile image


      11 years ago

      lol, I should but I don't have a digital cam or a scanner. I suppose I could get a regular pic on a disposable cam and let the drugstore put one on disc for me, though. I'll see what I can do. :)

      rural texas culture... a thing of beauty. :D

    • Ralph Deeds profile imageAUTHOR

      Ralph Deeds 

      11 years ago from Birmingham, Michigan

      Take a picture of it and make a cow-on-a-stick Hub!

    • profile image


      11 years ago

      sorry for disrupting your artistic flow, ralph :(

    • profile image


      11 years ago

      ok, the infamous cow-on-a-stick story.

      the town I lived in and closest to now that I'm out in the country, has a cow-on-a-stick in the main square downtown. It's a huge metal pole with a giant metal and painted cow stuck on it, just what it sounds like.

      there is a new one they put about 5 years ago, a bit smaller than the last one which was HUGE. they took the old one down and it was sitting on a mechanics lot for the longest time, all HUGE and cow-y and it had a 'for sale' sign on it, $1000.

      I wanted this cow, all I could think was geeze, what a bargain. I had a dream, friends. I had a dream of buying the giant cow, cutting a windshield out of the chest, dropping in a motor and a horn and of driving this giant cow as a cow-car. then you could be like driving along and if someone was in your way, you could honk the horn "moooo-ve over". wouldn't that be neat?

      except, ahem. I didn't have a thousand dollars or money to make it a cow car, even if it were possible and given all that, even if I could have afforded it, it was too big to go under the street lights. :(

      another busted dream. story of my life. :|

    • Ralph Deeds profile imageAUTHOR

      Ralph Deeds 

      11 years ago from Birmingham, Michigan

      I used the little green arrows to make the image smaller. Then I moved it up next to the text. It works pretty automatically.

      Thanks for the comments.

    • shyamchat profile image


      11 years ago from Calcutta

      Amazing ! simply amazing!!

      can i ask a question? how did you insert marcel's photo in the text portion of the HUB?

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile image

      Patty Inglish MS 

      11 years ago from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation

      Amazing photos. So glad to get a look.

      Iounn - Cow on a stick???

    • AuraGem profile image


      11 years ago from Victoria, Australia

      I drift through all this cultural exotica on a magic carpet and then tumble into loun's comment! Nothing like raw reality! But hey lounn! I wouldn't trade my mountain by the bay for anyone! Your cows and my trees + water = earthy culture! lol

      Great hub!

      Smiles and light

    • stanskill profile image


      11 years ago from Greensburg, PA

      I started out in black, and it's still my favorite because of the varying degrees on shadows, blacks and whites.

    • C.M. Vanderlinden profile image

      C.M. Vanderlinden 

      11 years ago from Metro Detroit

      Great hub, Ralph! I love that photo of Marcel Duchamp.

    • profile image


      11 years ago

      bah, I get jealous because I don't live anywhere near anything more cultural than a cow on a stick downtown with our county's dairy figures listed under it. :(

      good hub :)

    • Kenny Wordsmith profile image

      Ashok Rajagopalan 

      11 years ago from Chennai

      Loved the slide show. What power!

      Had seen only the Cocteau and Picasso before.

      Many thanks, Ralph!


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